Here at ES Research Group, we're frustrated and concerned with the increasing hype around Sales 2.0.
Editor's Note: For more on Sales 2.0, read Stein's feature article, "Case Study: Giving Your Sales Relationships a "Second Life."
Is Sales 2.0 (a term coined by Nigel Edelshain) real? Yes. Are Sales 2.0 applications actually helping salespeople to win business? Yes, without question—but in numbers significantly less than some would have you believe. I expect the Sales 2.0 vendors will be all over me about this, and I know they can provide compelling case studies, references, and testimonials. The real issue, however, is much broader and quite serious.
Before I go any further, I want to acknowledge there are numbers of highly effective sales enablement applications on the market. But research proves a sales methodology and the processes upon which it is built should form the backbone of a company’s sales approach. Get that methodology thing right; provide all the support, training, and coaching; and get all your salespeople following it; and you are taking one of the most important strategic actions that determines sales success. If you can automate it, you’re doing even better.
Here's my concern: Sales 2.0 vendors are pushing hard, claiming that their software applications will solve specific selling problems. Many of the vendors are right, but if the sales leaders who are considering investing in those apps don't have their team lined up and fully compliant with the consistent execution of a sales process—with training, coaching, and metrics in place—they'll more likely compound the problem than fix it.
That's what happened with CRM years ago. For many companies, CRM served to make the situation worse, not better. It kept sales management from focusing on the real issues, and automated the chaos that was present. Basically, it was a decoy. Buying a car when you don’t know how to drive doesn't get you to your destination faster. In fact, you may never get there at all.
There are some really good, innovative Sales 2.0 lead generation tools out there. So what happens when a sales rep uses one of these and winds up with some really good prospects…then can't advance the sale from that point to closure because they don’t have the skills, proven process, tools, and support to get it done? I hope you get my point.
So, here's my recommendation: If you get all charged up about a Sales 2.0 tool you think will help your sales team sell more stuff, faster, and for bigger dollars, map the application onto the backbone of your overall sales process. If you don't have a sales process, stop right there. That's what you need to do first. It's not sexy; it's not fun; it takes time, thought, and focus; and you'll find every excuse not to do it. But the research says it's what you have to do.
Bottom line: If you want a real boost in sales effectiveness, get your sales methodology built, train your people on its use, and support them in their effort. Then and only then—when that's ticking nicely along and you can measure progress—start layering in the Sales 2.0 applications that will have the biggest bang for the buck. That's when you'll really get some value out of them.
SMM columnist Dave Stein is the author of "How Winners Sell" and CEO and Founder of ES Research Group (www.ESResearch.com) in West Tisbury, Mass.
Source: Sales & Marketing Management